Government must act urgently to address courts backlog

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to take urgent action to tackle the growing backlog of court cases, as new official statistics reveal the scale of the problem.

The figures, published today by the Ministry of Justice, show that the number of outstanding criminal cases in the Crown Court has risen from 33,248 at the end of 2018 to 50,918 at the end of September – a 53% increase in less than two years.

Separate Ministry of Justice statistics, also published today, show that the average length of care proceedings in the Family courts has risen to over 40 weeks for the first time since 2013. In July to September this year, just 29% of these cases were disposed of within the 26-limit set by the Children and Families Act 2014 – down from 62% in 2016 and 49% in 2018.

Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: “Justice delayed is justice denied. Too many victims of crime and their families are being left far too long without justice. And too many parents and children are left in limbo for months as cases drag on through the family courts.

Wera Hobhouse

“Some of this is an inevitable consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t explain the huge backlogs that had already built up last year, before Covid hit.

“The Conservatives have underfunded the whole of our justice system for much too long, and have been far too slow to introduce Nightingale Courts to increase capacity during this pandemic. Ministers must not use Covid as an excuse for this backlog, or to undermine the fundamental right to trial by jury.

“The Government must take urgent action to tackle the backlog of court cases. More Nightingale Courts are welcome, but ultimately these delays can only be prevented with proper funding for our whole justice system – from Legal Aid right through to judges’ time.”

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